What Are the Dangers of an Overloaded Truck?April 25, 2023
One might think the only danger related to large trucks is truck driver error, but that is only one of the possible hazards that causes truck accidents. Fully-loaded tractor-trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds or more, and overloading them with too much cargo leads to significant dangers. Properly loaded and balanced trucks are hard enough to drive to begin with, but it is not unusual for companies to overload them.
Commercial trucks are regulated by state and federal cargo laws. Drivers and trucking company personnel are supposed to follow these at all times and check the vehicles before they head out on the road.
When it comes to loading trucks, all drivers and delivery truck owners are expected to follow these strict regulations. These trucks have allowable weights based on size, and the federal limit is 80,000 for gross vehicle weight, unless a special permit was obtained. Besides that, the load should be distributed evenly throughout the trailer instead of being grouped up in certain areas. The truck needs to keep its balance while moving, and the only way to do that is to ensure that no area is heavier than another.
Cargo must also be secured to keep it in place on routes. Otherwise, it can shift around and even cause a truck to fall to one side when turning. Unsecured cargo is also dangerous because drivers get distracted when it moves around, and their focus should be on the road at all times. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict guidelines for securing cargo, with directions for using tiedowns, shoring bars, and dunnage bags. Not having enough or placing them improperly are two of the main reasons why cargo shifts about in the backs of trucks.
How Does Overloaded Cargo Cause Accidents?
An overly heavy truck will take up to 40 percent longer to stop compared to smaller vehicles, and you can expect that percentage to go up when roads are slippery. It is easy for a driver to misjudge the distance needed to stop in time.
That heaviness can also take a toll on the truck, creating significant stress on its mechanical components. One example is an overloaded suspension system. The strain can lead to excessive wear and cracks, and the steel can stretch out of shape. This kind of damage impacts how the truck responds to impact. Truck transmissions can also malfunction or fail from repeated excess weight. Transmission failure is more likely when trucks are climbing uphill.
Damaged Brakes, Blown-Out Tires, and Jackknifing
Heavy loads put excess pressure on truck braking systems because the stopping power is negatively impacted by the weight. Drivers end up having to apply more pressure to the brakes to stop in time, and this increases the chances of brake failure. Even the most experienced truckers might not be able to stop an overloaded tractor-trailer in time to avoid an accident.
Truck tires have maximum weight limits, and heavy cargo can also cause them to fail or blow out. This is particularly dangerous because a blowout can also make the cargo shift around. When this all happens in a matter of seconds, the driver will have a difficult time steering the truck safely out of harm’s way.
If a large amount of cargo in the back of a truck suddenly shifts, the driver could easily lose control. The trailer could swing out over to one side and then forward, leading to a jackknife accident.
Do Trucks That Are Too Heavy Cause More Damage?
Heavier trucks can cause more damage because the added weight gives them more force; the impact will be significantly stronger. In some cases, the back doors of the trailers open up, and the cargo spills or flies out, causing even more damage.
Overloaded trucks also cause traffic jams because they take up more space on highways and often move slower. Sometimes, the cargo even sticks out on the sides and pokes into adjacent lanes. This is yet another threat posed by these trucks.
Heavy commercial trucks also damage roads, even though the latter will often have weight restrictions. Still, the constant weight leads to cracks and potholes, and it is not unusual for smaller vehicles to drive over them and become damaged. Bridges and other road structures often have weight restrictions, and if those are not followed, there could be a collapse.
Why Do Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies Overload Their Vehicles?
Improperly loaded cargo can be caused by simple mistakes, worn-out tiedowns, and failure to follow regulations. Loads must be kept within allowable weights and be properly distributed and secured, but industry workers might be too rushed to complete the steps, inexperienced, too lazy, or trying to cut corners. They are constantly trying to meet delivery deadlines, and sometimes, the stress causes them to overlook important things.
Cases involving large trucks tend to be complex because there are more parties involved: truck drivers, trucking companies, manufacturers, cargo loading companies, and maintenance vendors. Any one of these parties or a combination of several could be responsible for what happened, so establishing responsibility takes time.
To make a strong case for overloaded cargo, a claimant will need to have strong evidence. It might not be possible to gather any at the scene when survivors are rushed to the hospital, but there will be a police report, and witnesses might take helpful photos. Traffic cameras can also record evidence, and it is also possible to return to the scene afterward to snap photos of skid marks, downed poles, and other signs that show how the accident occurred.
What Other Evidence Would Help My Case?
Injured truck accident survivors will need to have copies of their medical treatment reports, including everything from the time the ambulance arrived to the initial diagnosis. It is crucial to follow the physician’s orders, otherwise an insurer or a defendant’s legal team can question the seriousness of the injuries.
You should also keep every statement receipt related to your medical expenses too, and the more organized, the better. If you were unable to work due to your injuries, keep all the paperwork pertaining to that in order as well. Eyewitnesses may be able to strengthen your case if they are properly vetted and can clearly recall what happened.
In some truck accident cases, lawyers work with expert witnesses who did not see or hear the accident. These professionals specialize in explaining certain kinds of injuries, the mechanics of truck accidents, and other areas. There are even people and companies who recreate accident scenes to show how crashes occurred and why.
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Are Experienced With Truck Accidents Caused by Overloaded Cargo
If you have been injured in a truck accident and want to learn about your options, speak with our Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. For a free consultation, call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or complete our online form.
We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Lanham, and Owings Mills, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.